Ntcheu’s age-long cry for ante-natal wing gets louder

At 36, Victoria Douglas from Champiti area in Ntcheu on Thursday came for her third delivery in eight years at the district hospital.

The gods smiled on her as this time, she bore a set of triplets, much to the amusement of both the nursing staff and family members.

Two women share a bed during the night

However, the development nearly cost her life.

The briefing district nursing officer Gloria Magombo was having with a team for the Nation Publications Limited (NPL) Mother’s Fun Run (MFR) initiative was abruptly halted, as everyone rushed to the labour ward.

The team split into two, with one attending to the newly-born triplets. The rest worked towards saving the mother by rushing her to the operating theatre. The set of babies had brought about some complications that needed urgent attention.

About five hours later, Douglas—though still weak due to the heavy loss of blood was declared safe. However, she could not be immediately reunited with the three girls. Born underweight, they had to be placed in the nursery section for further medical attention. With a drip tied onto her arm, she was deployed to the post-natal ward.

“I thank God for the gift of the babies, and I’m just grateful to be still alive,” she whispered.

In no time, she fell into a coma; again. The nurse said she had insufficient blood.

This was the first of what would be a long Friday night at the hospital. Eleven more births would subsequently follow in the eight or so hours before sunrise; five of them came through caesarian section. They include a set of twins.

Several women slept on the floor. To the far end, a corridor led to a small room which one would easily confuse it for a storeroom.

“This is actually our ante-natal ward. We just had to improvise,” said Magombo.

It seemed no big deal at the time of its inauguration in 1983; but now with a population of about 660 000—most of whom seek medical support from the hospital—the omission of an ante-natal wing at its construction remains a dent to Ntcheu District Hospital’s efforts in improving safe motherhood.

During yesterday’s wee hour, the ward had about 18 expecting women were crammed in there where only three beds could be identified. Due to insufficient space, most women were putting up on the floor, with no mattress.

Ntcheu district health officer Mike Chisema reckoned the Ntcheu hardships represent the nationwide notion.

“Just like any other public hospital in the country, our challenges are limitless. From lack of drugs to equipment; shortage of staff to insufficient funding, and so much more. However critical they all may be, nothing beats the value we place on having our own ante-natal ward. We are even ready to allocate some land for its construction should we indentify some well wishers today,” Chisema said on Friday.

According to him, the absence of such a unit is detrimental to the hospital’s efforts in promoting safe motherhood as the hospital’s catchment area includes some communities from Balaka, Dedza and neighbouring Mozambique.

During the Friday’s Sleepover Challenge at Ntcheu, MFR hosted Ivy Nyongopa- Katenga who works with auditing giants Deloitte and Touche and Abel Nyirongo, who runs The Computer Shop. They are both based in Blantyre.

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